Future Fossils: Architectural Geohistories
1Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey, USA, 2The Cooper Union, New York. New York, USA, 3UCL, The Bartlett, London, UK
This paper examines the emergence of architectural typologies that address environmental hazard employing methodologies and principles developed by the science of geology. Excavation is the act of going through the earth’s archives. Soil, rock formations and fossils are time writings. Fossus, the origin of the term fossil, is to having been dug up. Today excavations are not only performed to uncover specimens but also to cover them up: Built encased amalgams of material, both natural and manmade create surfaces dense with embodied information. Three distinct (en)case studies form the basis of the discussion: Layers of cement rest upon contaminated soil in Chernobyl burying a nuclear accident. A salt dome is turned into a radioactive waste depository in Gorleben. Permafrost conditions become the site of a seed bank in Norway expecting a plant mutation. Considering their future dialectics particular facets of present events and culture are encased within them. They are preserved for future times, awaiting excavation and interpretation, carrying warning signs, hibernating until an imminent analysis; they are future fossils.
The paper speculates on what terms these fossils can be discussed if they were uncovered in the future and how architecture as a medium of encasing can carry meanings and characteristics of geoformations. The analysis reflects upon the emergence of geology as an academic discipline in the 17th century; early savants developed scientific methods and concluded in interpretations of past events. The analytical work of Buffon, Couvier, Hutton, Lavoisier, Steno resulted in geotheories or geohistories also expressed in drawings. In developing taxonomies they deciphered information conveyed in fossils based on locality, type, organism’s lifespan and found terrain. Inspired by these thinkers this paper proposes the same taxonomies to the architectural case studies. They are investigated in geological terms as spaces of encoded knowledge, future fossils.